Anatomy of a Photo Shoot
How does how does how did we get hired? What's that? Okay, so, it's, you know it's, a food chain basically, the ad agency is hired by the client client is, you know, the brand managers they're in charge of, where this thing's going to go, they hire an ad agency and say, ok, this is what we want to do, we've got these products and we need to sell them. We need to increase their market share. The ad agency will sit down and nail concept a bunch of different ideas, and they're probably going eight or ten different directions. They'll sit down for weeks, months? Who knows how long? Looking at different ways to promote the client's message, they'll go back to the client and we'll say this is what we recommend and will have several options for usually they would all that, you know, ten, ten ideas down to, like three, and I'll go in with their three best ideas they present to the client client chews on it sometimes, according cause I know exactly what I want, but usually they'll go back and I...
'll think about it. We'll talk about it, talk about it with their other co workers and they come back to the addicts and see and say, okay, we want to go in this direction well, now the adage is, you know what was what to do? They know what direction they're going down. So a lot of this well, that gun get turned over to the art buyer. The art buyer again is in charge of getting in touch with us, the photographers so he or she will say, okay, I need a really good beverage photographer, so I'm going to look at the top ten people that I think are really appropriate, and they'll put the well, they'll put us forth to the creative directors in the art directors and it gets whittled down the little it down to the top three the people that they think are the best fit for the project and they'll contact us. We'll get an initial call and usually along with that initial call will come a set of layouts not always, but sometimes you're just looking for information. Uh, and we'll start to put together numbers. I do quite a bit of pre production, as I said, I want to start to ice my crew so that I know they're available. I know I've got the capabilities because I wanted if a client comes to me and says, hey, we've got this project I want to know I can do it I don't want to take on a project where I'm not going to deliver I'm not I'm not in a position where I'm going to set myself up to fail I just don't want to do do that so I take a lot of time in pre production to make sure that I can execute this job the way they want um well then go into the bidding process there's usually a phone call or two that will happen with the creative directors right as the bidding process is kind of getting going because you want to talk with them about what their vision really is it's one thing to look at a set of layouts versus talking with them and talking through the challenges and what they're trying to convey and that's a great time for you throughout ideas it's a great time you know I'm constantly getting ideas on okay, well we could do this we could do that. I'm a little cautious with ideas I threw out there but at the same time I want them to know I'm thinking about this and you know they're they're different ways that we can handle it and hopefully I'm going to bring something to the party that will elevate but at the same time I'm there to execute so we then go into the bidding process I look at you all of my numbers. What is the what is it the cost of doing business for me? What's my day rate. How much is it gonna cost for me to do this? Usage is a big part of this um an image that's going to be for a budweiser that's going to be shown all over the united states is not gonna have the same value as an image of an interior that's going to be in a local magazin. They're just totally different. So they have to be priced accordingly. And that's, another place where you can go to s and p and some other resources to help you figure out this price is, um and I look at all my crew, I go down the list of my bidding program and I look at first assistant digital tax second assistant production assistant and I start plugging all that stuff in. I use a program called blink bid, which is relatively inexpensive. Man is such a great little program. It really has a lot of viability to quickly put this together. You can plug in your presets on costs. I know you know. First assistant is going to three hundred fifty bucks or whatever. We plugged it in and we go ahead and we put together the entire bid submitted to the agency, then there's the waiting game because remember there's three other photographers, two or three other photographers in the mix there usually three, so you kind of have the waiting game you're waiting to find out how your numbers fall. Uh, and we'll press ourselves differently. My dairy is different from the guy next to me, and his price for hair and makeup artist might be different than mine because he marks his up ten percent more than I do. I don't mark, you know, you don't know what it is, their whole points of different parameters, I will say this, and this is probably in a bullet point somewhere. It's not necessarily the most inexpensive photographer that gets the job, it's the most appropriate. So I tried to put my numbers together in a way that I think is responsible with the client's money. Um, I kind of think about what the client might have budget wise, that's a huge guessing game because you really have no idea how much money the client has given the ad agency, but at the same time, I don't want to burn through their money. I don't want it inflate things and just I could make make a crazy cost intensive job. But while I'm doing that I have to be very conscious that I'm covering my bases I don't want to wind up or have got to go back to them and we've got ten thousand dollars in expenses that I didn't plan on because I didn't I didn't estimate it right so it's really a balancing game and that's where somebody like leslie comes in you know such play because she can help me balance those numbers and making sure that that I'm on the right track and I'm being competitive and then it's up to the agency they've gotta decide you're the right guy or you're not the right guy um so then the next part of the anatomy is you're you're awarded the job uh and often running you go into production so it's kind of cool I may have jumped around on that but I think I did cover all the basis all right here's a little example project this is something that we did with pat holds from fusion marketing pat is the creative director that's going to be here starting tomorrow to help us craft the image that we're doing tomorrow with bud light platinum and he's also going to be working with aaron so this came to us and this was for kabul wabo tequila and was it's a new product that they actually just launched this last september? Uh diablo so it's a coffee infused you know um tequila so these are the layouts that they sent me so I got this coming through my e mail with a note from pat saying, hey, we've got this project coming up uh, can you take a look at this? Let me know what questions you have and we're looking for numbers so another thing with this um we sometimes get illustrations or drawings of things that aren't in perspective their people and then they want and expect us to make it look exactly like that sometimes that can't happen at all because the focal lengths don't make sense so that's another thing that we have to take into account is can we do this? How do we do this and that's the biggest the biggest challenge? One of the things that's really happened in the business when computers became a factor and unfortunately I've been in the business long enough for computers warrant factor and everything was sketch artist sketch artist would submit you know, these layouts to us and that left a lot of imagination, you know, because it was just a sketch now with computers everything is really comped very tightly when these things come across that come to fairly tightly and in some ways it's made people lose their sense of imagination because the compass so tight they want to then execute that but what art directors can be doing is they could be pulling images from four different sources and the focal lengths and don't match up they know it client doesn't necessarily know it and that's a real challenge you've got to talk them through it okay, we can do this however we're gonna have these parameters that they're going to change as a result of what we're seeing in comp so we take a really good hard look at every comp that comes our way we study it and we know what challenges there are and then formulate questions like with this well, you know, we wanted to know about the background the background was really critical and I knew I could send a prop starless out and I could find this red tufted background I also knew it was going take a long time to do that was it going to be in st louis was going to be in chicago how many days when she hears should be out looking around for this red tufted background so there's another way to do it and that's have a model made and that's what I did a budgeted for a model and I had a model maker make me this background so that I had exactly what the client wanted in that case I was able to provide dead on what the client wanted without compromise I didn't have to come to them with something so well the tough start really there we're gonna have two stripes I was able to provide exactly what they wanted so long. I thought that goes into it. Okay, credit fees. So this thiss is kind of going to jump back a little bit too where we just were with the estimating and again, after seeing that comp, we sat down and we looked at it and said, ok, how much is it gonna cost for me to do this per day? What's my day rate going to be now what? What are all my other expenses? First assistant second assistant producer, model maker in my going down the model maker the proper. So we looked at all that kind of stuff to go ahead and plug those numbers in. How do you get an idea of the budget that they have do? Is that something you alright ask? Sometimes sometimes you cannot write. Ask him if you have a good relationship with him, you can definitely out right? Ask him. Um sometimes they don't know. Sometimes they're looking for you to tell them how much it's gonna cost because they really don't have an idea and in some ways that's kind of good. It can be very difficult when clients come to you with a preconceived idea of what something is going to cost. And you can't always do it for that or you then have to compromise the quality of the work in order to meet that budget. That does happen a lot, but we often ask we very often say so you know what your budget alone is? Probably sometimes they can share sometimes they can't and if they can't, we just gotta go in with our best gas. So how do you base your prices? I don't base my prices. Basement prices on number one experience how long I've been in the market? Um, because the longer you've been in the market that were about more value you have is a photographer. Obviously, uh, two is also has a lot to do with my overhead. Uh, I know what it cost me every month to keep my doors open, so that has to be factored into my jobs, you know, um, it's a cost of doing business and that has to be calculated in every single point of the estimating process. So it's a big part of it. I have a question. Yes, you saying that some clients may have, like, a preconceived notion of how much is going to take to do and you have to kind of come down on your budget estimate what, not a compromiser, what I mean, would you actually compromise the job that you do would you just turn that job down or say it depends here's a great example we're bidding right now on a project that is food and it's several days of food but they added a lifestyle component to it and when I first got the layout there's two people sitting at a booth and they're eating and you see the restaurant kind of behind them so I immediately thought okay we're going to want to shoot in a restaurant I need to go find the right restaurant I need to shoot the back plate I need to know what it's gonna look like I then need to go into the studio because I can't take up restaurants time is gonna be way too expensive and labor intensive to try to deal with taking up a restaurant's time so I didn't want to come back into the studio I want to build a set where I've got the booth and and I've got the right walls and all that kind of stuff that's going to fit with this back plate and I can shoot everybody in there we're gonna do a casting and we're going to you know hire a casting agent to go out to find the right look of the right people that they want in this in this shot the reality is client didn't have that much money and they weren't looking for that extensive of project that's not what they wanted out of this particular image they said, you know what? We can do this much more simplistically yeah, we put together a competition is a restaurant all accounts, but really we can do it in a booth with just a wall. We don't have to have a scene going back into a restaurant we don't need to do a full blown casting were comfortable the client's amos we're comfortable just looking at cards, so we do what's called a file pole with the with the modeling agency where they send us a whole bunch of comp cards and we take a look at those you know, comped cards those files and give them to the client our recommendations like let's let's look at these fifteen people and then they make their choices from there that saves a lot of money because now you don't have a restaurant that you have to go into, you don't have back plate that you have to shoot, you don't have his elaborate of a set that you have to create, you don't have as much retouching to dio you don't have the same kind of casting you can actually now higher production assistant to do the casting they could be in touch with the modeling agency, pulling the cards and doing that step versus having a full blown casting agent that's got to go out into the full cast so it saves a lot of time a lot of money and I would say preproduction is what we're constantly doing we spend more time putting rob spends more time putting together bids and thinking about projects than we are actually shooting them um how often would you say we're bidding on and pretty producing something as opposed to shooting all uh twenty five percent of jobs we've been only get maybe that might be it might be hi yeah um so learned to hear no learned to just okay yeah I think I'm in a pretty good place in my career where I definitely have a higher percentage of boys but you know what it's cyclical there are times when I can't win a job to save my life is going on it's just the way you know it's sometimes it's hit or miss and sometimes even this more than you had questions yeah you talked about basing price off experience how have you gone about changing that price as you become more experienced or have you had a hard time like with clients raising prices or you know a little bit about you know I've been at a place you know you start your day right out much lower it could be a slow is eight hundred six hundred day and you slowly build up and I think for me it's been kind of intuitive I have had wraps along the way who have helped me kind of formulate those numbers I've just gotten to a point where I know that I need to charge more or that I really want to charge more I'm ready for the next level I feel that my my work is is there and it's demanding those higher prices my overhead has gone up, I have to have this higher prices in order to business. Um and as you go up the ranks and jobs as you get bigger jobs and you're working on bigger brands, they expect the prices to go up if they're using you and you're really cheap on a huge thing. There's something that's not quite right, you know, uh, carrie, how much of ah role do you play in the pricing or rob, do you do it all by yourself or do you guys kind of bag here with the lash back and forth there? Carrie, carrie is not involved with the estimating process at all that's that's me and my rap without question, so in terms of, like, pre production making something happened like this tufted background or that's, just an example like, where do we go to find this set to build it, to bring it to life like we need a specific type of wood and we've got to build a table, okay, um, we gotta gotta quickly figure out where to go to get that and not keep time an important aspect of the job because you know we might be producing two or three jobs at a time so production and pre production is something that you know I spend a lot of time doing all right let's talk to burn through this hole because I want to get leslie you got questions can we ask one more question would you ever ask in estimating would you just ever asked the advertising agency what's the budget for this oh yeah yeah I always ask that no sometimes I do it depends on the relationship with the client and here is it's something where you just have to be intuitive some clients don't want to share that information they're very guarded about it on what they're doing is doing is they're protecting the dollars if you come in say five thousand dollars lower than the budget they have for it that means they have five thousand dollars the ad agency has five thousand dollars to put towards something else um some ad agencies are really forthcoming and they'll tell you you but you've got you've got to know and you gotta do it in a polite way if they don't want to tell you okay that's fine um but it doesn't it doesn't hurt to ask just always you do it nicely so we're still on the kabul shooting here is kind of the first page of what that client would see from us clearly outlines exactly how many images that we're going to be shooting for them that day, how much they're going to listen it's really important to spell everything out in great detail or as much detail as you can job description what you're going to shoot, how many images your licensing, what the licensing fees are and all the costs that are associated with it you gotta knock him out because you know, they turn around to their coin and say, okay, this is what it's gonna cost it's got to be approved and you really need to adhere to that, so we do everything we can to spell things out very clearly they're a couple of times in my career, early on work, I didn't do that as well uh, and that came back to haunt me. You really have to be very clear on what it is you're going to do and what you are going to deliver and also what you're going to charge when we're going to kind of give ah general fi breakdown of how we segregate the cost like kind of the line items hailed it someplace I think we already have already done this, you know sophie's including use it so how much does it cost for me to set my day rate? What is my day, right? What are my fees if a job is going bottle's gonna be used in north america for one year it has a different value has a different fee structure that if it's going to be used globally for unlimited time they're two different things because we're helping to create an image that is going to drive the brand message for unlimited time all over the world or we might be doing it for one year in north america to different values so we take a lot of time to think about exactly what that price is gonna be and hopefully it works so then you know, crew retouching and these really aren't our fees these are the people that we work with because this is what they charge so we just pass that on to the client as well and we'll make this this power are this presentation of the almost that you guys could take a look at it you know also insurance you know add that is a line item you know your cost of insurance per year divided by the number of days you're shooting um not on ly add insurance get insurance eh snp they have vehicles to help photographers by insurance that's how I get my insurance you do not want to be on a set you do not want to do a job where you've got people out on location and somebody falls and gets hurt and they have astronomical medical bills and they're going to come after you you have got to be insured not only for your sake but for your client's sake you've got to protect everybody involved so we have a line on them for insurance. We got a rider on every single job d'oh it's just a cost of doing business if somebody wants me to pull that out I'm not going to do it I have to have insurance I'm not gonna put my job at risk I'm not gonna put my studio risk which isn't turned my family's lively but I'm not gonna put that at risk because they don't want me there you know charge for insurance it's gonna happen you know what else we got there? So this is just kind of what it would look like in terms of uh what you could submit to a creative agency which you know, you guys were probably all doing this it's no. Well different this is straight out of bling pitted this is our presets just going through and I plugged in quite a few things so you can look at it in greater detail later but because through it all all right so the image on the left is the layout that they sent us. The image on the right is what I shot and put together so one you can see a huge difference in the quality because obviously the one on the left is clipped and illustrated and pulled together uh but too you can also see that we really executed their vision we hit this right on the mark that's what they were looking for so I'm happy with that you know even down to the highlights we really put things in the way that they had envisioned it which really leaves a lot of pressure off for the client they came in they saw this right that's what I want but remain happy clients they keep coming back that's what you want this is the diablo and you can see uh this is the teaser ad so again the one on the left is the comp that they sent us and the one on the right is what we executed it got changed a little bit shadows a little bit different but you can see basically we're kind of on target with it now this is interesting uh one on the left is what I delivered the one on the right is what they did to it after I deliver it so they changed it quite a bit they went in they wanted to make it rougher they brought up the size of the bottle they changed the surface kind of skewed a little bit it looks different it goes kind of mohr back to the camp in a sense I think some of the photography quality has gone out of it and it's become more illustrative. They brought some color some more purple into the bottle um where we had it a little bit darker added a bunch of texture into the background they wanted it to feel more rough and you know and beat up which is not what we were aware of in the beginning that wasn't a directive to do that so things can change and I think this is a really great lesson or a great example of what you can do to make sure that you nailed us for the client you handed over to them but things can still change you know they weren't done with this image and we look at it it's something a little bit different so next we just I think I have a quick forty five second uh behind the scenes look at our set on and how we did it oh yeah this is cool I think very brief you know, obviously that was a day we just condensed it down forty five seconds so it's a lot of snapshots but it gives you a sense of what we're doing in terms of planning, testing turning something in one spot it doesn't work working with the special expects the smoke stuff to try to make this exactly what the client was looking for it's funny, you know, at the end of the day so lucky if we do this I love what I do it's just way also have to record our lighting set up for everything if we ever have to redo it so we always try and teo a little bit of behind the scenes as well so we can kind of get a sense of where we were, what we did, how so we could replicate that actually we're pretty meticulous about this I have a lot of clients to come back time and time again a lot of my clients have liquor brands and they do brand extensions there wind up adding another flavor or something else and the new campaign has got a fit with the old so in order to do that we are very diligent diligent about recording exactly what happened on the set camera height camera pitch all the lights we want to know what we did so we can come back and we can repeat it in the future because I want to be able to match what I did for them before and that's not easy to trick you can't you definitely can't rely on your memory you know you just can't so we take a lot of time to do video and still captures and take a lot of notes on every single set so we can repeat it all right licensing your work probably the biggest topic people have been asking us about before this how do you do it? Um I turned in my rep leslie which is what I want to do here in the second um you know they're a couple elements of photography again we've talked about this day rate and usage you've gotta ask what the usage is what is the point going to do with this that's where photography is now the business you know is that that two pronged approach to pricing it used to be just day what did it cost for you to do the job what was your price not anymore and it's smart it's smarter to judge and base an image on its value in the marketplace they have very different values like I said before a magazine spread for interiors in a local magazine is something completely different than budweiser images they're going to be used all over the world they're just night and day so does the agency ask you um tell you the usage that they want is that something you always asking if I have to get it out of most time the agencies we work with are pretty good about telling us but very often we have to ask sometimes they just they don't include it kind of space it so so how do you really determine like if it's gonna be used just in one city nationwide worldwide like really how do you come up with that number? Um experience you know unfortunately a lot of it goes down to knowing uh what has worked for me in the past and what has failed for me and my bidding process this isn't the past those are all little bits of lessons that you take and you slowly start to build up what your prizes need to be and you learn and you ask you know when I lose a job very often I will want to know why I just and I'll stay to the client hate just for my own education what was missing about my estimate this I'm not I'm not looking for them too you know I feel sorry for me I'm not badgering them I just want to know from my own education what was I missing? How did I not hit the target because I liked the opportunity the future to maybe correct that maybe not maybe this is my best price and that's what I want to do but I always want the ability to know more you know? So the art buyer how did they how did they play a role in all this again? They are the person that that connects the agency to us they're the person who is really coming you know the interwebs and looking at portfolios and and handling portfolio showings as we come into to show our work so they are really the people that we're trying to get in touch with because they make recommendations to the creatives to the art buyers are to the art directors in the creative directors who are going to be working with us ultimately created characters in our church is a really busy concept ing and pulling together all these things they don't really have the time necessarily to go on find the talent that's the art buyers job is to find that talent and negotiate the price so resource is like a sin pete yeah again hit that s and p is great resource um having around his greatest alright so part for producing the job last part uh yeah once we get it you know what? We establish a timeline for the project and we live by that that's really critical we've got to know what we have to dio and by wind because again, at the end of the day we got to make art by by five o'clock so everybody can go home so it's really important to know the parameters and go through it with book the crew is early as we can because we want to assemble the best crew. I would have the best people around us in order to do the best job possible and if you are let's say a first assistant or p a and you are iced make sure that you uphold to that and if you have to change it, call the producer studio manager immediately and let them know because there's nothing more annoying than calling someone that we've iced and then have them say, oh, I can't make it now so then that kind of puts us in a bind of. Okay, well, we've got to go to the next person, you so you gotta be coming into town next to it, um, knowing the parameters of the project again, we've talked about this. You have to have a really good, solid understanding of what it is the client wants. Ask all the questions upfront. You want to ask many questions upfront, as you possibly can. So you know the parameters once you get into the job, things may change, but you want to have a good foundation and what it is you're supposed to be doing sustaining contact with the ad agency, how often this stuff changes a lot. You know, if crew members were changing ah ah la times they'll add shots, they'll subtract shots, you just want touch based about talent or things that are going on. I just want to be in contact with them. You don't want to say, ok, thank you know I'm gonna produce this job. I want to show up on tuesday, the eighteenth at nine o'clock that doesn't give them a comfort level. They want to know where you are, how things were going and just touching base with them, letting them, letting them know the progress. Um it's not that every time you cross something off your list you have to let them know but it's a good idea to keep in touch with them so they know how the process is coming curveballs curveballs breaking balls again sliders know what the project is because there's a curveball in every single job absolutely every job we do no matter how simple it is something pops up that we don't expect and you gotta handle it very cleanly very calmly I think a good example of that would be uh we were shooting something for a kn agency and another agency showed up that day a completely different shot that no one had told us about so yeah, that was that was interesting way we're working with an agency out in new york for a client and a local agency who had some of the work as well walked in the door in the first day I didn't know they were really coming just kind of hello and presented us with a shot list of things that they wanted to shoot it was two days worth of work and the brand manager had invited them on and thought while we're doing this this photo shoot with rob graham we may as well just go ahead and do more um I didn't get the heads up that's a big heads out because that was a whole two days of shooting a lot of expenses but you know, I very calmly just said great I'm more than happy to execute this for you we've got clients in from out of town and they're on a timeframe in terms of getting out of here so let's go ahead and dress all their issues let's really learn about what it is you need to do and then we're gonna quit that on to the next two days and we did uh so we accommodated everybody's needs we didn't panic, we didn't get frustrated way listen to what the coin of wanted and we handled that and that was not a curve ball that was like sixty curveballs e going which brings us to our next one wolf's there's, another curveball coming and there are there's constantly more curveballs so again experience be relaxed, communicate and you'll be all right and the last one allowing your crew to help out subtle but yeah no it's really important to create an environment where the people that you bring on can do good work for you and khun flourish it is really hard I will admit it freely sometimes it's hard for me to tell somebody to move the light when I know exactly where it needs to go, I can do it faster than conveying that knowledge to them and watching them do it and fine tuning where they do it but it is really important, not only for you to kind of let go of some of that process. But it's important for them to grow and it's important as a team toe. Let your people do what they do best and be successful. It's going to make the whole effort in the whole project better.